The Geneseo Ice Knights headed into the game on Jan. 31 trailing only SUNY Plattsburgh in the conference. They walked away with a victory, but the win was short-lived as they dropped a game the following night to the last-place SUNY Potsdam Bears.
The Cardinals drove into Geneseo for a game with heavy playoff implications and found themselves in the midst of a playoff atmosphere. The 2,300 fans at the Ira S. Wilson Ice Arena were dressed all in white, with white rally towels waving overhead. The Ice Knights came out with a similar energy and controlled momentum for much of the scoreless first period.
“The difference in the game for us was the passion and elevated level of emotion from our players. They left nothing in the locker room,” head coach Chris Schultz said.
That elevated level broke a scoreless tie five minutes into the second period when forward senior Zachary Vit took a shot from the top of the right circle to beat Plattsburgh’s goaltender senior Mathieu Cadieux, one of the conference’s best goalies.
The Ice Knights beat Cadieux twice more in the period with identical shots from the identical spot on the ice, one from forward first-year Stephen Collins and the other from defenseman junior Ryan Stanimir. Cadieux entered the contest with a save percentage over .950.
Plattsburgh answered each Geneseo goal with one of its own, coming from seniors Ryan Farnan and Barry Royman along with sophomore Connor Gorman. The score tied 3-3 as the two teams traded punches early in the third.
When forward junior Alex Brenton of the Cardinals was called for slashing, the Ice Knights had their opportunity to take the lead for good.
Though the Ice Knights’ power play had scored just once in its past 26 attempts, and the Cardinals’ penalty kill was one of the nation’s best at over 95 percent, Geneseo managed to work the puck to the front of the net. This is where forward sophomore David Ripple shoveled the loose puck past Cadieux for a 4-3 lead.
Winger junior Justin Scharfe’s empty netter cemented a 5-3 win for Geneseo in front of the raucous student body.
The Ice Knights had the SUNYAC in their own hands and could seal first place by winning the remainder of their schedule. The last-place Bears were the first hurdle in their path and proved to be a big one.
The Ice Knights came out of the gate sluggish with sloppy defensive zone play, confusion during the breakout and ultimately a handful of turnovers that cost them. Bears sophomore Billy Pascalli stripped Geneseo defenseman junior Jack Caradonna in the corner of the defensive zone just three and a half minutes into the game and found freshman Tommy Telesca in the slot for a 1-0 Bears lead.
The Ice Knights responded with two goals in the first from Vit and Scharfe to give the Ice Knights a 2-1 lead heading into the second period, but the Ice Knights remained under siege for the majority of the game.
A sharp-angled drive from Potsdam senior Adam Place late in the second period squeaked under the arm of Geneseo goaltender junior Bryan Haude and crept over the line to tie the score at two. That was the turning point of the contest.
Geneseo’s power play struggled, despite the previous night’s success, going 0-6.
Controversial refereeing led to Potsdam goals and a subsequent 3-2 lead. At one point, Ripple had his feet kicked out from under him behind the Geneseo net, an obvious slew foot. Nothing was called as the puck was slid to senior Mike Arnold in front, who gave Potsdam a 4-2 lead with 10 minutes remaining. Pascalli’s empty-netter made it a 5-3 final.
With the loss, Geneseo once again looks to capture the regular season SUNYAC title. The fight continues with two consecutive games against the SUNY Brockport Golden Eagles. The Ice Knights travel to Brockport on Friday Feb. 7 and host on Saturday Feb. 8. The puck drops at 7 p.m. both nights.